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Claims Tribunal: An Effective Way Of Getting Compensation

A new forum MACT i.e. motor accident claim tribunal also known as "Claims Tribunal" substitutes the civil court for particular cases arising out of the motor accident. The matter of this particular chapter is contained under the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 and is present in sections 165-175 and sections 110 to 110F of the 1939 Act. These all sections deal with the working process and granting awards by the claims tribunal.

The key factor behind the constitution of this tribunal was to ensure the speedy and effective working of cases of certain nature so that the aggrieved party could have been given the proper aid in a jiffy period.

Introduction
In the scenario of hustle and bustle life and where time is very essential for everyone, the motor vehicle serves as an important means for every people in today's era. Since the population is increasing day by day and therefore the requirement for the vehicle is also increasing at the same rate.

As we know with merit there exists demerit as well, in the same way, the use of a vehicle leads to an accident. Sometimes the accident takes place solely because of the negligence or default of a single party, in that case, the aggrieved party must be compensated and the entire process is done with the help of a claims tribunal.

In India, more than one lakh people dies[1] in road accident and more than 300 peoples in a day which can be further calculated and it come more than 10 peoples die every hour. This perplexing data seems unreal but indeed this scenario exists in a country like India. The condition of the deceased family is pathetic after the occurrence of this unexpected event.

So at this particular point Claims Tribunal plays an important role by providing adequate compensation when a claim is being made by the injured/deceased family.

In section 165(1) of MVA, 1988 there is a provision regarding the purpose of the constitution of the Claims Tribunal.

Well, a claims tribunal is being constituted to adjudicate the matter upon a claim for compensation:
  • If there is an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle.
  • If the accident is involving any death or bodily injured person.
  • If there is any damage to any property of a third party so arising.

Constitution of Claims Tribunals

The government of the state by the notification in the Official Gazette may appoint one or more Motor Accident Claims Tribunal for such area as may be specified in the notification[2]. When any Claims Tribunal is being constituted no Civil Court shall have the power to entertain any question regarding the claiming and granting of compensation.

There consists of a member as the state government may think seems fit. The person who is going to be appointed as a member of Claims Tribunal should have any one of the following criteria, which are:
  • Is, or has been a judge of a high court.
  • Is, or has been a district judge
  • Any other person who is qualified to be appointed as the judge of the high court or a district court.
  • After the constitution of the Claims Tribunal, the matter relating to the various accidents and claims of compensation being granted effectively.

Application for compensation

Section 166 of MVA, 1988 mentions the various provisions by which an application can be filed.
An Application For The Compensation Can Be Filed By:
  • By the person who has sustained injury due to the accident.
  • By the owner whose property is being damaged in that accident.
  • When there is death due to that accident then all legal representatives can jointly or severally claim for compensation.
  • Any agent duly authorized by the person who has sustained the injury.

An application for the compensation can be made in the Claims Tribunal of that local area where the accident has occurred or the compensation can also be claimed in the Claims Tribunal of the local area where the claimant resides. Behind the provision of all this application for compensation, there is a vital thing that one needs to consider before applying and that is, the application must be filed within 6 months of the occurrence of that particular accident. The time limitation for the filing of an application for compensation is provided under section 166(3) of MVA, 1988.

In the case of U.P.S.R.T Corp vs. Shanti Devi[3] it was held that in an application for compensation it is enough to state that the accident was due to the act of the respondent. If the rashness in causing death has been alleged, the petition is not incomplete merely because the actual way in which the accident has not occurred has been disclosed. Therefore it is not necessary to plea any evidence.

In the case of M.P.S.R.T. Corp. vs. Shyamkishore[4] the claimant was injured in a road accident due to negligently driving on 09/02/1980. The claimant sent a claim petition on 24/07/1980 by the post which normally reaches the desired location in 25 days but was not reached. By way of caution claimant again sent a letter on 30/08/1980 which reached the Tribunal 6 months after the date of the accident.

It was held by the M.P. High Court that the delay, in this case, is valid and acceptable because reasonable effort for filing the complaint was there and that too was before 6 months.

The Procedure of Claims Tribunals

Section 169 and section 170 of MVA, 1988 mention the procedure that the Claims Tribunal follows while granting the compensation. The Claims Tribunal follows the summary procedure as may seem fit to the tribunal. The Claims tribunal shall have the power of the Civil Court[5] for the civil purpose e.g. - taking oaths and evidence. The intention behind following the summary procedure is that the suit should not go as long as the regular civil suit and could be concluded speedily.

Claims Tribunal during adjudicating upon the claim may take the help of one or other knowledgeable person if required in any matter related to the inquiry. Further, when after the inquiry Claims Tribunal satisfies that:
  • There was an actual collision between the person who is making the claim and the person for whom the claim is being made.
  • The person against whom the claim is being made has failed to contest the claim.
In this case, the Claims Tribunal may in writing direct the insurer to become the party in the subsisting suit and can defend his case. The insurer in this case shall have the right to plead not only those defenses which are available against him but also the defenses which are available to the person against whom the claim is being made.

Just Compensation:
The award which is to be provided by the claims tribunal is mentioned under section 168 of MVA, 1988. The compensation that is to be granted by the Claims Tribunal must be "just" which means it must be equitable, fair, reasonable, and non-arbiter.

The calculation for compensation is done in such a way that the person who has suffered the injury must be given proper aid and the other members who were dependent on the person who has suffered injuries should also not face hardship because of that fatal accident. Let us take an instance, a person who was working in the public sector in an accident dies then in this case.

The Claims Tribunal guided by an advocate will calculate the amount of money that he was earning in a month and what probable amount he could have earned if he would have been alive till the end of his job. Supposedly it concludes that he could have earned around 50 lacs then that amount must be given to his family as the entire family depended on the person who died and there was no alternative source of income.

Davies vs. Powell Duffryn Associated Colleries Ltd.[6]:

It was held that the number of wages the deceased was earning may depend on the regularity of his employment. Then there is an estimate of how much was required to be spent on his personal and living expense. The balance will give a basic figure which will generally be turned into a lump sum by taking the years of employment and that amount could be regarded as just compensation.

Scope of Appeal
After granting the compensation in the form of an award to the aggrieved party and directing the other party to give the said amount in a particular period, the work of the Claims Tribunal is about the end. If the aggrieved party to whom compensation is being given by the Claims Tribunal is not satisfied with the amount and feels that the amount that is given is not reasonable. Then in this scenario, an appeal can be done in the High Court against the award of the Claims Tribunal.

An appeal can be made by any person who has been aggrieved by the award of the Claims Tribunal. The appeal must be filed within 90 days from the date when the award was given by the Claims Tribunal. However, the appeal can also be made after 90 days if the aggrieved person can establish the fact that he was prevented with sufficient cause for appeal.

The person who is filing the appeal is required to pay an amount in terms of such award that shall be entertained by the high court unless he has deposited 25,000/- or 50% of the granted award whichever is less.

Further, no appeal can be there if the amount granted by the Claims Tribunal is less than 1, 00,000[7]. So, these are the few provisions regarding the appeal for the award which is granted by the Claims Tribunals.

Conclusion
After the discussion of various facts and provisions relating to the Claims Tribunal, we can say that it is a great initiative taken by the government for the constitution of Claims Tribunals. If the suits relating to the motor accident could have been dealt with a similar nature to a civil suit then it would have been very difficult for the aggrieved party to get the award in the form of compensation on a speedy basis.

In many fatal accidents, we see that the person often loses his life and because of that his family is left abandoned, Claims Tribunal makes sure that the livelihood of the aggrieved party and their family should continue as it was going earlier.

However, there are many instances in which the people are taking the provision of the Claims Tribunal on a malafide basis and even fake cases also come. In this regard, the police authority must investigate the matter closely and every point of the case should be studied clearly.

After doing this only the proper justice and the proper aid could be given to the aggrieved party. Last but not least every citizen must support the initiative of the government and the judicial fraternity toward the achievement of the utmost goal which is required for the formation of a robust society.

End-Notes:
  1. NCRB data, 2021
  2. Sec. 165(1), MVA, 1988
  3. A.I.R 1997 Delhi 342
  4. A.I.R. 1987 M.P. 188
  5. Section 195 and chapter XXVI of CrPC, 1973
  6. (1942) 1 All. E.R. 657
  7. Subs. by Act 32 of 2019, s.56, for ten thousand (w.e.f. 1-4-2022)

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